Young Czech jazz guitarist David Dorůžka releases new album

David Dorůžka

Guitarist David Dorůžka, one of the country’s most promising jazz musicians, has recently released his second album called Silently Dawning. Born in 1980, he started regularly performing at just 14, and later studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. David Dorůžka wrote all the songs on the new LP. But where does the title Silent Dawning come from?

“I was searching for a title for the record for quite some time because that’s always one of the most difficult things. Song titles and titles of records don’t come easy. I was reading the poems which I set to music on this CD and in one of the poems Noc a den or Night and Day by Jiří Orten and at the end of it he is asking a question: ‘podívej nesvítá’, which means ‘look, isn’t it dawning’. So I tried to answer that question. And also a lot of the music on the record is pretty quiet so I called it Silently Dawning.

Why did you choose the poems of Emily Dickinson and Jiří Orten?

“They are two poets who I really like reading and in general I like reading poetry a lot. There are many poets and poems that don’t work with music or at least with a certain kind of music. So when I got the idea of recording a vocal album, I was trying to find some poems that would work with my own music. And somehow the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Jiří Orten turned out to work well with my music.”

You were saying that not every poem can be turned into music. So what qualities the poetry needs in order to function well with music?

“The music that I write often has quite a slow motion and not a lot of notes in the melody or in the harmony. It uses just a few notes to develop. Its kind of a minimalist approach, I guess. I just take one motive or one sharp melody that and work with that.

“So I tried to find poetry that would work the same way with words, verses and rhymes; something where in a small space you say a lot of things with just a few words. And I think Emily Dickinson especially is a great example of this because almost all of her works are miniatures. And some of the poems by Jiří Orten worked this way as well. I think that’s something they have in common, saying a lot with just a few words.”

Are you actually trying to illustrate the poems with music or do you just take them as inspiration?

“I think in my case I never try to illustrate the meaning with music. It’s not the way that I think in music. What I try to do is follow the rhythm of the words, to listen to the poems in the same way as music. It’s actually very interesting to try not to listen to the meaning of the words, but just to the rhythm and the melody.”

How would you describe the genre of the record? Is it still jazz?

“A lot of people ask this question and it’s difficult to answer. I think it is jazz in the way that there is a lot of space left for improvisation and there is a lot of liberty left to the musicians to play their parts their own way. But it’s definitely more of a European jazz and it’s definitely quite far away from American jazz. But there are many influences that come outside of jazz on this record, from classical music, folk music. I listen to lot of different kinds of music so I think the influences come through whatever I listen to.”

The voice on the record belongs to a Swedish singer Josefine Lindstrand.

“We met six years ago on a tour with a large ensemble. It was a project organized by several Danish jazz musicians. It’s called The European Jazz Youth Orchestra. We played a tour of about twenty concerts, starting in Denmark and ending in Portugal. So I met a lot of really good young musicians from all over the world and Josefine was one of them.”

There are actually a few songs written be Josefine herself.

“There are three songs of mine to which she wrote lyrics in Swedish. Actually these were the first three songs that I wrote for the record and that’s how it all started. In the summer of 2004 I was teaching at the summer jazz workshop in Prague and I recommended Josefine as a teacher.

“So the organizers invited her to teach. We met on the day of the workshop and there was a concert in the evening, a welcome concert for the students. We planned to play a few tunes in duo at the concert. We played my tune at the sound check and she sang it great, but there were no words at that time, so she just vocalized the melody. And she said: this is good but it would work great if there were some words. So she sat down at a table and she wrote the lyrics in half an hour. At the concert we played the song with her lyrics already.”

And that’s one of the songs from the album?

“Yes, that’s the song Tears.”

How often do you actually perform and can a jazz musician make a living only by playing music?

“I teach on the side a little. I teach at the conservatory of Jaroslav Ježek in Prague as a part time job and I do some private teaching as well. But I mostly earn my living as a performer. It is possible but it is quite difficult, I have to say, here in the Czech Republic.”